October 31, 2011

making up for a month that never was...

One morning in the last week of October when it was still warm enough to sit outside, if you were in the sunshine - and perhaps with a throw or blanket on the lap. And a hot cup of tea. One of those blissful autumn days.

The mountains are changing their colors literally day by day, and while few trees around here have those strikingly bright red and yellow leaves that we often associate with the image of 'autumn leaves', their subdued, brownish shades are beautiful, too.

...well, in their own ways.

I was away for a few weeks, and had half expected it would be too late to have some tea outside by the time I'm back. Yet October seemed to have been blessed with a very mild weather, and I was delighted to come home to beautifully sunny, warm days.

For the first breakfast back home, we opened up a jar of thick cut marmalade I'd brought back from England some years ago. It was nice, and made me want to make my own; the marmalade-making season is nearly there.

But for now, there was something else I wanted to make - something I'd been looking forward to making while I was away.
An extra sweet and decadent something: brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting. Who could resist it? I know I can't!

It was the first recipe that caught my eye in the latest issue of donna hay magazine (issue #59, oct/nov 2011). The issue, by the way, was absolutely gorgeous - even more so than it usually is and totally worth owning. But if you don't have your copy, you are still in luck; the recipe is available for view online here.
The recipe easily won me over, first with its stunning photo and then with its irresistible combination of chocolate and peanut butter, which is like a dream to someone like me who just can't say no to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

As dreamlike as it may be, the recipe still almost gave me a heart attack, just by my thinking how much sugar and fat a single sandwich contains; I resisted an urge to try to slash sugar or fat in some way, and mostly stuck to the recipe, except I cut the recipe in half.
I probably overbaked the brownie a bit - the sandwiches would have tasted nicer if the cookie had been a bit softer and gooey. But they were unashamedly rich and chocolate-y, a true treat, and gave me deep satisfaction. And oh, they definitely require strong black coffee.

Now I was somehow left with quite a bit of peanut butter frosting. There was too much for me to finish by licking it off the spatula, and I thought it'd be a shame to chuck the whole thing, so I decided to turn it into something else:
Why, more cakes! The frosting was made from peanut butter, butter, sugar and cream (!), and I threw an egg and some flour (plus a bit of baking powder) into the mixture and baked it in a mini muffin pan. I also added small dollops of lingonberry jelly to make some berry swirls, making them a sort of PB&J cake. They ended up tasting pretty good - too bad I can't recreate exact the same thing again!

And there was another thing I'd wanted to make: apple cake, 'tis the apple season!
As I suddenly had time to read, I finally got down to The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, 2005), which I had bought a while ago but never got around to actually reading.

There were so many things I'd like to cook in the book, but I picked one from one of his October entry: english apple cake because, well, there were apples and it was October.
The cake itself was fairly simple, plain even, but was topped with cinnamon-tossed fresh apple chunks and fresh bread crumbs. And what I though would be a pretty standard recipe produced a surprisingly good cake - a really, really good cake. It was either that the recipe was genius, or the fact that I took my time and made the batter carefully. Maybe both, I don't know, but I do know this: I will be making this cake a lot over the coming few months. And you can, too - the recipe can be found here.

Nigel suggests you eat this cake warm, with a good pouring cream, so that was what we did.
I might add that it went down really well with black tea (no milk).


I often wonder, at the end of seemingly every month, where the whole month had gone. Days and weeks go by really quickly, and a month - and even a year - seems to pass as if there wasn't a month's worth of time. But this October, there really wasn't enough time worth a month for me to spend - except for being tied to a bed and gazing at the sky and the top of the nearby buildings.

Early in the month, a stupid little accident caused damage serious enough to send me to the ER at the dead of night, immediately followed by what was to be a few weeks of hospital stint. I spare you the details, but I suffered some rather nasty burns - I was really lucky to have come out with relatively limited damage, but it could have been much, much worse. It was particularly fortunate that my eyes and hands/arms were basically intact, so I could read, write, and even type on the bed (I even worked a bit from there).

I was initially told to expect three to four weeks in the hospital, with a possible addition of a couple more weeks if a surgery is needed. Thankfully, my wounds weren't as bad as they had first feared and also healed pretty fast with limited complications, so I didn't have to undergo an operation. And I did really well with my rehabilitation exercises, and managed to leave the hospital a little over two weeks after the accident, quicker than anyone had expected.
There will be a while before I completely recover and back to normal, but I feel infinitely grateful and happy to be back home, to be able to stand up and walk on my own, cook and eat as I wish, and just do whatever little things I had taken for granted before. I am forever grateful to those who supported me when I needed them - family, friends, and the people at the hospital.

And to all who cared about me, sent me good thoughts, and cheered me up while I wasn't in the best of form - thanks so, so much. If anything made any change on my path to recovery, it had to be all the encouragement you gave me that strengthened my will to heal.
A few days after I came home, we went for a bit of hiking in the valley to see the autumn leaves. I wouldn't exactly call it the best autumn foliage viewing spot, but the day was gorgeous and we had fun. I'm hoping to go a couple more places before all the leaves have fallen and the whole area turn into monotone brown.

Whatever happens, November has to be better than October. And I hope your November will be a good one, too. -cxx


Skye said...

I am so glad to hear you're okay - and it's lovely to see your posts again. Those brownie cookies look amazing, I'm so tempted!

moonisup said...


Luisa said...

So glad to hear you are recovering well. And so quickly, too. Hooray!

Sophie said...

Get well soon, lovely pictures!

Alejandra said...

This is such a beautiful post! The images are gorgeous. I'm glad your injuries were not as serious as they initially thought and that you are recovering well. Best wishes to you. You are so talented!

Maria said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your accident, but I'm glad to hear you are getting better! Take care Chika!

Tilia said...

I am really glad to hear you are getting better so quickly.
I am falling in love with the brownie cookies, I am wondering if it is possible to make them
with a gorgeous nuts cream I found here in Italy (instead of the peanut butter)...
I wish you all the best!

Anonymous said...

Get well soon! I'm glad you're feeling a bit better and have lots of yummy treats to keep you going.

Nigel's books are amazing inspiration reading, the Tender series are really awesome.

Take care

ElisaPavan said...

your blog is really lovely! I'll keep an eye on it!

forestlily said...

Beautiful post and yum photos as always. I was waiting for your blog updated. Please be well...

evinrude said...

oh dear! thank goodness you're alright and back! those brownie cookies look so good and i can imagine how decadent they are (i used to make chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling and more chocolate frosting). i shall grab a copy of donna hay soon.

take care!

Jo said...

Those brownie cookies look amazing! And I love ALL of your photos.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Your photos and the dishes you shared are beautiful. This is my first visit to your site, so I took some time to browse through your earlier entries. I'm so glad I did that. You've created a great spot for your readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you will soon be completely better. Have a good evening. Blessings...Mary

Carrie said...

Thank goodness you are okay.

I have always been so impressed by the beauty of your blog; I enjoy your writing, photographs and cooking so very much...

Thank you for all you share with us. Best wishes and so glad you're alright.

greenbeenfood said...

it is lovely to see your posts again...your images are heaven sooo pretty & perfect. you are doing a wonderful job & i want to eat everything you photograph! dayle

BlondeBomber said...

Those brownie cupcakes would be the devil in my house!! I would eat them in one day. One of thebest places to eat in New York has a cupcake very similar to this - which is why I KNOW I would love this.

Lynnea said...

Love the photos! as always you take such amazing photos. Thank you for posting them despite the fact that you are still recovering from an accident. So glad that you on your way to feeling better.

take care and please be well!

chika said...

dear all, thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts! i'm doing good and shall be fully well within a few months. thank you!! x